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100 Years of Shelbourne Internationals

A momentous milestone has now been passed in our club's great history. One hundred years ago on 17 February 1906, Val Harris walked on to the pitch at Solitude in Belfast and became the first Shelbourne player to represent Ireland against England. What was a proud moment for Harris, was also a great reward for the club who had made the brave desicion in 1904 to join the Irish League and had made an even braver decision to turn professional in 1905. Harris was the first of twenty nine players to win full international honours while playing for The Reds. But who were these players and what part did they play in our club's history? Red Inc. investigates....
Val Harris who became the club's first international was also Shels first legend. His first team debut came in 1903 in the Leinster Senior League and even before becoming an international he was representing the Irish League for the first of four times against the Football League. In Shels first season in the Irish League, he helped the club to the IFA Cup Final which was to end in defeat to Distillery. However, twelve months later he was to lead the club to Irish Cup success as Shels beat Belfast Celtic 2-0 in the cup final to become the first Dublin club ever to win a national trophy. After winning his sixth cap in Wales, Harris was persuaded to sign for Everton in a move that saw The Reds pick up the then maximum transfer fee of £350. In 1913 he captained the first ever Ireland team to beat England and then a year later he returned home and resigned for Shels where he was to win another Irish Cup winners medal in 1920 and continued playing with The Reds up until 1927. After playing a total of 160 Irish League and League of Ireland games for The Reds, he went on to manage the first Shels team to win the FAI Cup in 1939.
Harris was not the only Red to play for the IFA international team. Joe Ledwidge won two caps in the same season as Harris made his debut and played alongside him in that season's historic IFA Cup win. John Baffle won the first of his two caps in 1909 in Bradford, P Warren won two caps in 1913, and after World War I ended Ed Brookes became the last Shels player to be capped by the IFA before the split when he won his only cap in Galsgow in 1920.
When the new Free State association formed in 1921 it was not to field a full representitive side until 1926. And when the side took to the field in Turin against Italy, Mick 'Boxer' Foley and Fran Watters ensured Shels had two players capped there on that historic occasion in Irish football. The following season Billy Lacey, who had left for Merseyside with Val Harris in 1908 except that he went to the red side, won the first of his three internationals caps against Italy in Dublin. Lacey then became the first ever Shels player to score an international goal when he scored on 12 February 1928 in a 4-2 over Belgium in Liège. Another Shels player, Joe Kinsella, made won his only international cap in the same match. As Shels marched to League Championship succes for the second time in 1928/29, the side's top scorer David 'Babby' Byrne, a Ringsend man who had returned home from Bradford City, scored on his international debut as Ireland crushed Belgium 4-0 at home.
Into the thirties, and two Shels players made their debuts together against Spain during a 1-1 draw in Barcelona in what turned out to be The Reds' third League winning season of 1930/31. The first, Paddy Byrne who also made 3 inter-league appearances, won a second cap the following season in a 2-0 win over the Netherlands in Amsterdam while the other Harry Chatton, then moved to Scotland to play for Dumbarton. In the 1931/32 season George Lennox won his only cap as a Redsman in a 5-0 home defeat against Spain. Then in the 1933/34 season Johnny Squires scored on his debut in a 5-2 defeat in Amsterdam, but was never given another chance on the international stage.
Squires international goal-scoring debut was to be the last time a Redsman would play international football until after the end of World War II. Gerry Malone won his only cap in a 2-0 home defeat against Belgium alongside fellow Red Brendan Carroll who was to have more luck on his second and final international sappearance when Ireland crushed Finland 3-0. Carroll also played on Shels fifth and sixth League title winning sides of 1946/47 and 1952/53. Another member of that latter side, Martin Colfer, won his two caps in Brussels and Oslo in the early fifties.
During the 1954/55 season Eddie Gannon during his thrid stint with The Reds won two caps in Oslo and Hamburg. Gannon had already won international caps during spells with Notts County and Sheffield Wednesday and also played eleven times for the LoI's inter-league side scoring twice. Two seasons later Dermot Curtis international career got started when he scored on his debut in Dalymount Park in a World Cup qualifier against Denmark and then shortly after played against West Germany in a friendly. Curtis also played twice and scored once for the inter-league side but then moved to England where he won further caps while with Bristol City, Ipswich Town, and Exeter City. The final Shels player to be capped in the fifties was Christy Doyle. 1958/59 was to be his big season. He won his only full interntional cap against Czechoslovakia in a European Nations Cup tie while he also played twice and scored once for both the Republic of Ireland 'B' team and the LoI's representitive side. The 1959/60 season wasn't bad for him either as over 32,000 packed in to Dalyer to watch him play his part in The Reds 2-0 defeat of Cork Hibs in the FAI Cup Final.
The 1965/66 season saw for the first and only time ever three Shels player play for the same Ireland team. Freddis Strahan, Joe Haverty, and Jackie Hennessy, all Shels lagends in their own right were the Redsmen who all played in a friendly in Dalyer against the West Germans, who later on that season were to reach the World Cup Final. Strahan was a long-serving player who was a stalward of Gerry Doyle's great sides. He helped The Reds to the League Championship of 1962 (won in a play-off over Cork Celtic) and FAI Cup wins over Cork Hibs in both 1960 and 1963. Strahan won five international caps, scoring in Dalyer against England as well as making seven inter-league appearances. Like Strahan, Jackie Hennessy was a part of the league and cup successes of the early sixties. He was part of the Shels FAI Minor Cup winning team of 1959 along with Tommy Carroll who won international caps after moving to England, Tony Dunne another international regular who won the European Cup with Manchester United in 1968 along with Best, Charlton et al, and Eric Barber. Hennessy also scored the Reds' first ever European goal in Lisbon as Shels crashed out of the Champions Cup of 1962/63 to Sporting.
Joe Haverty meanwhile became Shels most capped player ever. He returned home having played for a host of clubs in Britain including Arsenal and Celtic and was already a well established international by the time he won the last seven of his thirty-two caps with The Reds. Haverty appeared in one of the most notorious international games in the FAI's history. Having won at home and lost away to Spain, a play-off against the Spanish was set for Wembley-effectively a home game for Ireland-with a place in the 1966 World Cup to be held in England at stake. The Spanish offered to play the game in Paris and let the FAI keep all the gate receipts. The FAI agreed and Ireland went down 1-0. And with it went the chances of playing at the World Cup Finals for some of Shelbourne's greats.
Eric Barber is another legend from the sixties. Our all time leading league scorer, he made his only international appearance alongside Joe Haverty in Seville. Having graduated from the '59 FAI Minor Cup winning team, he played his part in the successes of the early sixties. He scored in every round in the 1960 Cup win including one in the final which was reported as being from over thirty-five yards out. He also scored in Lisbon in the Fairs Cup of 1964/65 as The Reds claimed their first European scalp, Portugese side Belenenses. Shels then went out to Athletico Madrid in the following round losing 1-0 both at home and away. Barber then left to play in England, USA, and Austria before returning home to The Reds and got into the history books as he became the first player to be sent off in an FAI Cup Final in the 1973 replay defeat in Flower Lodge against Cork Hibs. Another of Barber's team mates from the '73 Cup Final, Willie Newman was the last Shels player capped in the sixties winning his only cap in Copenhagen in the 1968/69 season.
The great Shels international tradition continued into the seventies as Paddy Dunning picked up two caps in the 1970/71 season. The following season saw both Mick Gannon, who was to set a new record for league appearances in a red shirt, and Paddy Roche, who would subsequently be sold to Manchester United, win an international cap against Austria in Linz. After that Shels, along with the LoI, wuld go into decline for some time. Stephen Geogeghan was called up to the squad for the infamous World Cup qualifier in Skopje, but failed to make the bench as Mick McCarthy's side were humiliated. In 2002, the recently departed Wes Houlihan made the bench for a friendly in Athens, but went unused by stand-in boss Don Givens. Finally in 2004, Jason Byrne made his international debut in a friendly away to Poland. Top scorer in the League each season since signing from Bray three years, Jayo has set a new record by scoring six European goals for The Reds as well as having won back-to-back championships.
So what does the next hundred years hold for Shels players on the international front? Will we have another twenty-nine players capped between now and 2106? Will we have players capped playing for other countries? Will we have a Redsman playing at the finals of a major international tournament? After all who could have predicted the last hundred years on that day Val Harris walked out onto Cliftonville's pitch? Back then there was only one Irish international team playing games against England, Wales, and Scotland every year.....

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